Apparently, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. And then there’s a new category: figures relating how deaf children get on at school.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families have given us the latest figures on the attainment of deaf children and we intend to publish them next Tuesday with some accompanying analysis and a pretty little spreadsheet. I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise when I say the figures will confirm that there is still a large attainment gap between deaf children and all children. We’ll be doing some media work to promote the figures and to call for more support for deaf children at schools.
At the same time, I’m bracing myself for a barrage of tut-tutting. The figures are quite controversial in some quarters because they don’t include all deaf children, only those who are getting specialist support at schools. Some have argued it’s misleading to use these figures and that it demoralises professionals.
I take a different view. The figures are not perfect but they are still the best available. No evidence has been provided to suggest the figures are unrepresentative or that there is not a wide attainment gap between deaf children and their hearing peers. If there was, I’d quite happily go home and watch Hollyoaks all day.
I see the point about demoralising staff. Which is why we’re always careful to say that we think professionals are dedicated and doing a good job with a lack of wider support and funding from their local authority and central Government. In any event, should professionals working with deaf children be exempt from wider discussion and scrutiny about how deaf children are doing?
Finally, the data is used for an important end – to shine the spotlight on the education of deaf children and to persuade Government to take action. If we held off from ever using data unless it was 100% verifiable and perfect, then we may never be able to make the case for action. And all the time, the education of deaf children would suffer. And that’s not acceptable.
It’s going to be interesting to see the reaction. In the meantime, what do you think? Are we right to publish the data and to use it to shine a spotlight on education of deaf children.